With much of Europe shivering through a January winter, Aussie cycling is just heating up.
The world turns its attention to the first two sanctioned events on the UCI WorldTour calendar – the Santos Tour Down Under kicking off international proceedings before four intriguing one-day racing events take place at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Inspired by Europe’s prestigious one-day classics, final preparations are in place for the 2024 edition of our event, with Australian talent set to come up against an international peloton from the northern hemisphere.
Earlier this month, an exciting showcase of domestic competition took place at the AusCycling Road National Championships.
After 21 years of Road Nats in the Victorian town of Buninyong, Australian cycling farewelled it’s spiritual home with Luke Plapp (Team Jayco AlUla) winning his third consecutive Australian road title, and Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco) hitting the front to stake her claim as Australia’s best road racer.
Both Plapp and Roseman-Gannon will head to Geelong for Cadel’s later in the month, excited by the opportunity to test their one-day racing prowess against a WorldTour peloton.
“We are super motivated to keep this momentum rolling,” Plapp said following his win in Buninyong.
“We are very excited to return to Geelong and try to take the victory. It is a really great race that all Australian riders want to win. With Team Jayco AlUla we have an incredibly strong team, and it is nice to have options for the race with myself and Caleb Ewan.”
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For Roseman-Gannon, who won her first national title in a bunch sprint, the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race represents the summer’s last opportunity to win on home soil.
“The national championships is such a special race… it feels like a home race with so many friends, family and Brunswick cycling club members in attendance,” Roseman-Gannon said.
“Similarly, Cadel’s race is one of my favourites for the season because it’s so close to home. It’s another race win that I’ve dreamt of over the past few years.”
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The Santos Tour Down Under will see the women race three stages from 12-14 January, before the six-stage men’s race takes place between 16-21 January.
In the women’s race, a mix of experienced and up-and-coming Australian cyclists will take on the international peloton, headlined by GC hopefuls American Ruth Edwards (Human Powered Health), Danish rider Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ – SUEZ) and Kiwi talent Ella Wylie (Liv AlUla Jayco).
With the internationals yet to show their form, Australian riders including Roseman-Gannon, Grace Brown (FDJ – SUEZ), Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal Team), and Amanda Spratt (Lidl – Trek) have all already hit the road since the Christmas break, primed to race in Adelaide.
All of these leading contenders are bound for the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race on the 27th of January.
The first stage of the Tour Down Under women’s race between Hahndorf and Campbelltown will be for the sprinters, while the second and third stages are expected the sort out overall leaders. Stage 2 is a punchy-style 104km route between Glenelg and Stirling featuring two and a half laps of a hilly circuit. Stage 3 sees the women’s peloton start in Adelaide CBD and finish atop Willunga Hill for the first time in the race’s history. The 3.4km climb, at a fairly steep gradient of 7.4%, is sure to be an exciting finale not only for the stage win, but overall honours too.
The men’s race welcomes back 2020 and 2021 world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step). The French favourite and six-time stage winner at the Tour de France will be battling for stage wins against a peloton that also includes former Vuelta a Espana GC winner Simon Yates (Team Jayco AlUla) and 2022 Gent–Wevelgem winner, Eritrean Biniam Girmay.
Plapp races alongside teammate Caleb Ewan (Team Jayco AlUla), and Italian duo from INEOS Granadiers, Filippo Ganna and Elia Viviani, as key riders to watch in the sprints.
Girmay, Ewan, Ganna and Viviani have been confirmed for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Watch for the speeders during Stage 4, the relatively flat route between Murray Bridge and Port Elliot, and potentially Stage 3, where a downhill finish follows an out-and-back loop from Tea Tree Gully to Campbelltown.
There’ll be hilltop finishes in the final two stages, Stage 5 and Stage 6, where the weekend sees the men ascend Willunga Hill twice on Saturday, before backing up for three laps and a Mount Lofty finish that’ll likely decide the 2024 GC title.
Less than a week later, much of the WorldTour peloton will cross the border to Victoria, and begin preparations and final adjustments for the four Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race events:
Wednesday 24 January: Geelong Classic (Women’s criterium)
Thursday 25 January: Surf Coast Classic (Men’s point-to-point race)
Saturday 27 January: Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race
Sunday 28 January: Elite Men’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
Imagery: Con Chronis / AusCycling